Taxila: Treasure hunters steal ancient items illegally

Dr M Ramazan Rana

Friday, January 04, 2013 - Taxila—Scores of priceless antiquities including coins dated back to second century to 5th century AD belongs to ancient Gandhara civilization are feared to be lost as treasurer hunters make illegal excavations at a mound near Taxila. It has been learnt that a gang of influential treasure hunters carried out illegal digging at a mound in village Tofukian located near Taxila and recovered different antiquities especially coins of Kushan dynasty dated back to second Century to 5th century AD.

The small village is located on the border of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa adjacent to ancient Buddhist site of Mohra Maradu stupa. Sources said that illegal treasurer hunters first dig out coins and artifacts with the help of metal detectors and then levelled the land with the help of tractors to conceal their crime. It is learnt that this incident of human vandalism, illegal excavation and theft of the ancient cultural heritage came under spotlight when some villagers spotted some stranger people mapping land with metal detectors and later digging the area and informed officials of department of archeology as well as police.

Official sources said that the illegal digging site is located near Mohra Maradu Stupa and Monastery dated back to 4–5th century AD and the antiquities belong to this site as it remains still buried under ground. Official sources said that Mohra Moradu Monastery flourished as a beacon of knowledge from 4th to 5th centuries AD and is located in a small valley between Sirkap called second city of ancient Taxila valley civilization and Jaulian, known as ancient Taxila Buddhist University. Keeping its importance UNESCO put this site on its list of the world cultural heritage sites in 1980.

An official of department of archaeology, who wished not to be named has said that according to Antiquity Act, archaeological finds or relics of historical importance are the exclusive domains of the government and their possession or removal is an offence which can be seriously dealt according to the prescribed law. He added that in July 1997, through a special notification to protect and preserve this heritage UNESCO prohibited mining, excavating, quarrying and blasting in Taxila area.

It may be mentioned here that the old and never improved Antiquity Act which was constituted in year 1973 do not cover the recent incidents and circumstances. If the government is serious to curb the menace of illegal digging, smuggling and theft of the archaeological treasure, it is high time that department should revise, improve and update the Antiquities Act and form a task force which should conduct a survey of the un-excavated and preserved sites of the different archaeological sites and adopt remedies to safeguard these ancient sites enriched with the antiquities treasure.

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